PSALM 108 OVERVIEW.
TITLE AND SUBJECT. A Song or Psalm of David. To be sung jubilantly as a national hymn, or solemnly as a sacred psalm. We cannot find it in our heart to dismiss this psalm by merely referring the reader first to Psalms 57:7-11 and then to Psalms 60:5-12 , though it will be at once seen that those two portions of Scripture are almost identical with the verses before us. It is true that most of the commentators have done so, and we are not so presumptuous as to dispute their wisdom; but we hold for ourselves that the words would not have been repeated if there had not been an object for so doing, and that this object could not have been answered if every hearer of it had said, "Ah, we had that before, and therefore we need not meditate upon it again." The Holy Spirit is not so short of expressions that he needs to repeat himself, and the repetition cannot be meant merely to fill the book: there must be some intention in the arrangement of two former divine utterances in a new connection; whether we can discover that intent is another matter. It is at least ours to endeavour to do so, and we may expect divine assistance therein.
We have before us The Warrior's Morning Song, with which he adores his God and strengthens his heart before entering upon the conflicts of the day. As an old Prussian officer was wont in prayer to invoke the aid of "his Majesty's August Ally", so does David appeal to his God and set up his banner in Jehovah's name.
Division. First we have an utterance dictated by the spirit of praise, Psalms 108:1-5 ; then a second deliverance evoked by the spirit of believing prayer, Psalms 108:6-12 ; and then a final word of resolve ( Psalms 108:13 ), as the warrior hears the war trumpet summoning him to join battle immediately, and therefore marches with his fellow soldiers at once to the fray.
These five verses are found in Psalms 57:7-11 almost verbatim: the only important alteration being the use of the great name of JEHOVAH in Psalms 108:3 instead of Adonai in Psalms 57:9 . This the English reader will only be able to perceive by the use of capitals in the present Psalm and not in Psalms 57:7-11 . There are other inconsiderable alterations, but the chief point of difference probably lies in the position of the verses. In Ps 57:7-11 these notes of praise follow prayer and grow out of it; but in this case the psalmist begins at once to sing and give praise, and afterwards prays to God in a remarkably confident manner, so that he seems rather to seize the blessing than to entreat for it. Sometimes we must climb to praise by the ladder of prayer, and at other times we must bless God for the past in order to be able in faith to plead for the present and the future. By the aid of God's Spirit we can both pray ourselves up to praise, or praise the Lord till we get into a fit frame for prayer. In Psalms 57:7-11 these words are a song in the cave of Adullam, and are the result of faith which is beginning its battles amid domestic enemies of the most malicious kind; but here they express the continued resolve and praise of a man who has already weathered many a campaign, has overcome all home conflicts, and is looking forward to conquests far and wide. The passage served as a fine close for one psalm, and it makes an equally noteworthy opening for another. We cannot too often with fixed heart resolve to magnify the Lord; nor need we ever hesitate to use the same words in drawing near to God, for the Lord who cannot endure vain repetitions is equally weary of vain variations. Some expressions are so admirable that they ought to be used again; who would throw away a cup because he drank from it before? God should be served with the best words, and when we have them they are surely good enough to be used twice. To use the same words continually and never utter a new song would show great slothfulness, and would lead to dead formalism, but we need not regard novelty of language as at all essential to devotion, nor strain after it as an urgent necessity. It may be that our heavenly Father would here teach us that if we are unable to find a great variety of suitable expressions in devotion, we need not in the slightest degree distress ourselves, but may either pray or praise, "using the same words."
Verse 1. O God, my heart is fixed. Though I have many wars to disturb me, and many cares to toss me to and fro, yet I am settled in one mind and cannot be driven from it. My heart has taken hold and abides in one resolve. Thy grace has overcome the fickleness of nature, and I am now in a resolute and determined frame of mind.
I will sing and give praise. Both with voice and music will I extol thee -- "I will sing and play", as some read it. Even though I have to shout in the battle I will also sing in my soul, and if my fingers must needs be engaged with the bow, yet shall they also touch the ten stringed instrument and show forth thy praise.
Even with my glory -- with my intellect, my tongue, my poetic faculty, my musical skill, or whatever else causes me to be renowned, and confers honour upon me. It is my glory to be able to speak and not to be a dumb animal, therefore my voice shall show forth thy praise; it is my glory to know God and not to be a heathen, and therefore my instructed intellect shall adore thee; it is my glory to be a saint and no more a rebel, therefore the grace I have received shall bless thee; it is my glory to be immortal and not a mere brute which perisheth, therefore my inmost life shall celebrate thy majesty. When he says I will, he supposes that there might be some temptation to refrain, but this he puts on one side, and with fixed heart prepares himself for the joyful engagement. He who sings with a fixed heart is likely to sing on, and all the while to sing well.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Note the different application of the words as they are used in Psalms 57:1-11 and Psalms 60:1-12 , and as they are employed in Psalms 108:1-13 . In the former they were prophetic of prosperity yet to come, and consolatory in the expectation of approaching troubles. In the latter, they are eucharistic for mercies already received, and descriptive of the glorious things which God has prepared for his Son and for Israel his people. The Psalm, thus interpreted, announces that Messiah's travail is ended, when the troubles of Israel are brought to a close. David's Son and David's Lord has taken to himself his great power and begun to reign, and sitting upon the throne of his glory, he sings this hymn, Ps 108:1-6. But with the glory of the Redeemer is associated also the restoration, to favour and happiness, of Israel, his long cast off, but not forgotten people. The setting up of King Messiah upon the holy hill of Zion is graphically described, and all Jehovah's promises are realised in the most ample measure. Messiah is described as a conqueror when the battle is won, and kings and nations, prostrate at his feet, await his sentence and judgment upon them. "I will rejoice. I will divide and portion out Shechem and the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and I give it to the children of Gad and Reuben. And Manasseh also is mine. Ephraim is my strength in war: my horn of defence. Judah is my king." Thus in gracious and flattering words, the victor addresses his confederates and subjects. In a different strain, a strain of sarcasm and contempt, he announces his pleasure respecting his vanquished enemies." Moab I will use as a vessel to wash my feet in. Over proud Edom I will cast my shoe, as an angry master to a slave ministering to him. Philistia follow my chariot, and shout forth my triumph." But what is to be understood of the next passage, Ps 108:10, "Who will bring me into Edom?" Edom is already treated as a vassal state, Ps 108:9. When all the nations become the kingdoms of Messiah, what is this Edom that is to be amongst his latest triumphs? One passage only seems to bear upon it, Isaiah 63:1 , and from this we learn that it is from Edom as the last scene of his vengeance, the conquering Messiah will come forth, "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood." This Edom is therefore named with anxiety, because after its overthrow, Messiah will shine out "King of kings, and Lord of lords", Revelation 19:13-16 . --R.H. Ryland.
Whole Psalm. This psalm hath two parts: in the former is the thanksgiving of faith and promise of praise, in hope of obtaining all which the church is here to pray for, ( Psalms 108:1 - 5). In the latter part is the prayer for preservation of the church, Psalms 108:6 , with confidence to be heard and helped, whatsoever impediment appear, against all who stand out against Christ's kingdom, whether within the visible church ( Psalms 108:7-8 ), or whether without, such as are professed enemies unto it, ( Psalms 108:9-11 ), which prayer is followed forth (Ps 108:12), and comfortably closed with assurance of the Church's victory by the assistance of God, Psalms 108:13 . --David Dickson.
Verse 1. O God, my heart is fixed. The wheels of a chariot revolve, but the axletree turns not; the sails of a mill move with the wind, but the mill itself moves not; the earth is carried round its orbit, but its centre is fixed. So should a Christian be able, amidst changing scenes and changing fortunes, to say, "O God, my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed." --G.S. Bowes, in "Illustrative Gatherings", 1862.
Verse 1. My heart is fixed. The prophet saith his heart was ready, so the old translation hath it; the new translation, "My heart is fixed." The word in the Hebrew signifies, first, ready, or prepared. Then, secondly, it signifies fixed. We first fit, prepare a thing, sharpen it, before we drive it into the ground, and then drive it in and fix it. So ask seriously and often, that thy heart may be ready, and may also be fixed, and this by a habit which brings readiness and fixedness, as in other holy duties, so in that of meditation. --Nathanael Ranew, in "Solitude improved by Divine Meditation", 1670.
Verse 1. Meditation is a fixed duty. It is not a cursory work. Man's thoughts naturally labour with a great inconsistency; but meditation chains them, and fastens them upon some spiritual object. The soul when it meditates lays a command on itself, that the thoughts which are otherwise flitting and feathery should fix upon its object; and so this duty is very advantageous. As we know a garden which is watered with sudden showers is more uncertain in its fruit than when it is refreshed with a constant stream; so when our thoughts are sometimes on good things, and then run off; when they only take a glance of a holy object, and then flit away, there is not so much fruit brought into the soul. In meditation, then, there must be a fixing of the heart upon the object, a steeping the thoughts, as holy David: "O God, my heart is fixed." We must view the holy object presented by meditation, as a limner who views some curious piece, and carefully heeds every shade, every line and colour; as the Virgin Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. Indeed; meditation is not only the busying the thoughts, but the centring of them; not only the employing of them, but the staking them down upon some spiritual affair. When the soul, meditating upon something divine, saith as the disciples in the transfiguration ( Matthew 17:4 ), "It is good to be here." -- John Wells, in the "Practical Sabbatarian" 1668.
Verse 1. With my glory. The parallel passage in the Prayer book version is, "with the best member I have." The tongue, being considered the best member, is here described as the glory of man -- as that which tends to elevate him in the scale of creation; and therefore the pious man resolves to employ his speech in giving utterance to the goodness of God. God is glorified by the praise of his redeemed, and the instrument whereby it is effected is man's glory. --The Quiver.
Verse 1-2. As a man first tunes his instrument, and then playeth on it so should the holy servant of God first labour to bring his spirit, heart, and affections into a solid and settled frame for worship, and then go to work; My heart is fixed, or prepared firmly, I will sing and give praise. As the glory of man above the brute creatures, is that from a reasonable mind he can express what is his will by his tongue: so the glory of saints above other men, is to have a tongue directed by the heart, for expressing of God's praise: "I will sing and give praise, even with my glory." Under typical terms we are taught to make use of all sanctified means for stirring of us up unto God's service: for this the psalmist intends, when he saith, Awake psaltery and harp. We ourselves must first be stirred up to make right use of the means, before the means can be fit to stir us up: therefore saith he, I myself will awake right early. --David Dickson.
Verse 1-5. After David has professed a purpose of praising God ( Psalms 108:1-3 ) he tells you, next, the proportion that is between the attributes which he praiseth in God, and his praise of him. The greatness of the attributes mercy and truth we have in Psalms 108:4 , Thy truth reaches unto the clouds; and there is an answerable greatness in his praises of God for them, Psalms 108:5 : Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth. He wishes and endeavours to exalt him as high in his praises as he is in himself; to exalt him above the earth, above the heaven, and the clouds. --Henry Jeanes.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Whole Psalm. Parts of two former psalms are here united in one.
- Repetition is here sanctioned by inspiration.
- Of what? Of hymns, of prayers, of sermons.
- For what? For impression. "As we said before so say I now again, if any man preach", etc. For confirmation: "Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice": they went through Syria and Cilicia again confirming the churches. For preservation: quotations authenticate originals, a writing in two copies is safer than in one.
- Rearrangement is here sanctioned by inspiration.
- Different experiences may require it. Sometimes the heart is most fixed at the commencement of a spiritual exercise: sometimes at its close. Hence the commencement of one psalm is the close of another.
- Different occasions may require it. As of sorrow and joy. Two parts of two different hymns may better harmonise with a particular occasion than either one separately considered. --G.R.
- The best occupation: praise. Worthy --
- Of the heart in its best condition.
- Of the best faculties of the best educated man.
- The best resolution.
- Arising from a fixed heart.
- Deliberately formed.
- Solemnly expressed.
- Joyfully executed.
- The best results. To praise God makes a man both happier and holier, stronger and bolder -- as the succeeding verses show.